Summary of “Poet and Philosopher David Whyte on Anger, Forgiveness, and What Maturity Really Means”

“A creature without any needs would never have reasons for fear, or grief, or hope, or anger.” Anger is one of the emotions we judge most harshly – in others, as well as in ourselves – and yet understanding anger is central to mapping out the landscape of our interior lives.
This undervalued soul-mapping quality of anger is what English poet and philosopher David Whyte explores in a section of Consolations: The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words – the same breathtaking volume “Dedicated to words and their beautiful hidden and beckoning uncertainty,” which gave us Whyte on the deeper meanings of friendship, love, and heartbreak.
Stripped of physical imprisonment and violent reaction, anger is the purest form of care, the internal living flame of anger always illuminates what we belong to, what we wish to protect and what we are willing to hazard ourselves for.
Such a reconsideration renders Whyte not an apologist for anger but a peacemaker in our eternal war with its underlying vulnerability, which is essentially an eternal war with ourselves – for at its source lies our tenderest, timidest humanity.
What we have named as anger on the surface is the violent outer response to our own inner powerlessness, a powerlessness connected to such a profound sense of rawness and care that it can find no proper outer body or identity or voice, or way of life to hold it.
What we call anger is often simply the unwillingness to live the full measure of our fears or of our not knowing, in the face of our love for a wife, in the depth of our caring for a son, in our wanting the best, in the face of simply being alive and loving those with whom we live.
Our anger breaks to the surface most often through our feeling there is something profoundly wrong with this powerlessness and vulnerability Anger in its pure state is the measure of the way we are implicated in the world and made vulnerable through love in all its specifics.
Anger truly felt at its center is the essential living flame of being fully alive and fully here; it is a quality to be followed to its source, to be prized, to be tended, and an invitation to finding a way to bring that source fully into the world through making the mind clearer and more generous, the heart more compassionate and the body larger and strong enough to hold it.

The orginal article.

Summary of “When Things Fall Apart”

In When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times, she draws on her own confrontation with personal crisis and on the ancient teachings of Tibetan Buddhism to offer gentle and incisive guidance to the enormity we stand to gain during those times when all seems to be lost.
Half a century after Albert Camus asserted that “There is no love of life without despair of life,” Chödrön reframes those moments of acute despair as opportunities for befriending life by befriending ourselves in the deepest sense.
Things become very clear when there is nowhere to escape.
Things falling apart is a kind of testing and also a kind of healing.
Things are always in transition, if we could only realize it.
Getting the knack of catching ourselves, of gently and compassionately catching ourselves, is the path of the warrior.
We are giving up control altogether and letting concepts and ideals fall apart.
Complement the immensely grounding and elevating When Things Fall Apart with Camus on strength of character in times of trouble, Erich Fromm on what self-love really means, and Nietzsche on why a fulfilling life requires embracing rather than running from difficulty, then revisit Chödrön on the art of letting go.

The orginal article.

Summary of “How Our Internal Critics Enslave Us”

Phillips – who has written with beguiling nuance about such variousness of our psychic experience as the importance of “Fertile solitude,” the value of missing out, and the rewards of being out of balance – examines how “Our virulent, predatory self-criticism [has] become one of our greatest pleasures,” reaching across the space-time of culture to both revolt against and pay homage to Susan Sontag’s masterwork Against Interpretation.
In broaching the possibility of being, in some way, against self-criticism, we have to imagine a world in which celebration is less suspect than criticism; in which the alternatives of celebration and criticism are seen as a determined narrowing of the repertoire; and in which we praise whatever we can.
Nothing makes us more critical, more confounded – more suspicious, or appalled, or even mildly amused – than the suggestion that we should drop all this relentless criticism; that we should be less impressed by it.
Or at least that self-criticism should cease to have the hold over us that it does.
The first quarto of Hamlet has, “Thus conscience does make cowards of us all,” while the second quarto has, “Thus conscience does make cowards.” If conscience makes cowards of us all, then we are all in the same boat; this is just the way it is.
Conscience it is the part of our mind that makes us lose our minds; the moralist that prevents us from evolving a personal, more complex and subtle morality; that prevents us from finding, by experiment, what may be the limits of our being.
This effort to foster the constructive by the destructive, he suggests, ends up turning us on ourselves as our fear of punishment metastasizes into self-criticism.
How has it come about that we are so bewitched by our self-hatred, so impressed and credulous in the face of our self-criticism, as unimaginative as it usually is? And why is it akin to a judgement without a jury? A jury, after all, represents some kind of consensus as an alternative to autocracy We need to be able to tell the difference between useful forms of responsibility taken for acts committed, and the evasions of self-contempt This doesn’t mean that no one is ever culpable; it means that culpability will always be more complicated than it looks; guilt is always underinterpreted Self-criticism, when it isn’t useful in the way any self-correcting approach can be, is self-hypnosis.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Carl Sagan on Moving Beyond Us vs. Them, Bridging Conviction with Compassion, and Meeting Ignorance with Kindness”

“Unless we are very, very careful,” wrote psychologist-turned-artist Anne Truitt in contemplating compassion and the cure for our chronic self-righteousness, “We doom each other by holding onto images of one another based on preconceptions that are in turn based on indifference to what is other than ourselves.” She urged for “The honoring of others in a way that grants them the grace of their own autonomy and allows mutual discovery.” But how are we to find in ourselves the capacity – the willingness – to honor otherness where we see only ignorance and bigotry in beliefs not only diametrically opposed to our own but dangerous to the very fabric of society?
That’s what Carl Sagan explores with characteristic intelligence and generosity of spirit in the seventeenth chapter of The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark – the masterwork published shortly before his death, which gave us Sagan on science as a tool of democracy and his indispensable Baloney Detection Kit.
Sagan considers how we can bridge conviction and compassion in dealing with those who disagree with and even attack our beliefs.
If it is to be applied consistently, science imposes, in exchange for its manifold gifts, a certain onerous burden: We are enjoined, no matter how uncomfortable it might be, to consider ourselves and our cultural institutions scientifically – not to accept uncritically whatever we’re told; to surmount as best we can our hopes, conceits, and unexamined beliefs; to view ourselves as we really are Because its explanatory power is so great, once you get the hang of scientific reasoning you’re eager to apply it everywhere.
In the course of looking deeply within ourselves, we may challenge notions that give comfort before the terrors of the world.
Sagan notes that all of us are deeply attached to and even defined by our beliefs, for they define our reality and are thus elemental to our very selves, so any challenge to our core beliefs tends to feel like a personal attack.
Sagan’s central point is that we humans – all of us – are greatly perturbed by fear, anxiety, and uncertainty, and in seeking to becalm ourselves, we sometimes anchor ourselves to irrational and ignorant ideologies that offer certitude and stability, however illusory.
In understanding those who succumb to such false refuges, Sagan calls for “Compassion for kindred spirits in a common quest.” Echoing 21-year-old Hillary Rodham’s precocious assertion that “We are all of us exploring a world that none of us understand,” he argues that the dangerous beliefs of ignorance arise from “The feeling of powerlessness in a complex, troublesome and unpredictable world.”

The orginal article.

Summary of “Self-doubt can help you bloom; it starts with how you talk to yourself |”

The key to harnessing self-doubt starts with self-efficacy, or our confidence in our ability to set ourselves up for success.
We can improve self-efficacy through something that we all already do: talk to ourselves, says writer Rich Karlgaard.
The key to harnessing self-doubt starts at the very core of our individual beliefs about ourselves, with what psychologists call “Self-efficacy.” And understanding self-efficacy begins with Albert Bandura.
While we’ll still feel self-doubt even with high self-efficacy, we’ll find that we’re able to maintain our sense of personal agency.
Bandura and others have found self-efficacy plays a major role in how we approach goals and challenges.
Due to society’s obsession with early achievement, late bloomers are often denied the two primary sources of a strong sense of self-efficacy: mastery experiences and social modeling.
While we’ll still feel self-doubt even with high self-efficacy, we’ll find that we’re able to maintain our sense of personal agency, the belief that we can take meaningful action.
We can improve self-efficacy through something we already do: Talk.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Against Self-Criticism: Adam Phillips on How Our Internal Critics Enslave Us”

The undergirding psychology of that impulse is what the English psychoanalytical writer Adam Phillips explores in his magnificent essay “Against Self-Criticism”, found in his altogether terrific collection Unforbidden Pleasures.
Phillips – who has written with beguiling nuance about such variousness of our psychic experience as the importance of “Fertile solitude,” the value of missing out, and the rewards of being out of balance – examines how “Our virulent, predatory self-criticism [has] become one of our greatest pleasures,” reaching across the space-time of culture to both revolt against and pay homage to Susan Sontag’s masterwork Against Interpretation.
In broaching the possibility of being, in some way, against self-criticism, we have to imagine a world in which celebration is less suspect than criticism; in which the alternatives of celebration and criticism are seen as a determined narrowing of the repertoire; and in which we praise whatever we can.
Self-criticism, and the self as critical, are essential to our sense, our picture, of our so-called selves.
Or at least that self-criticism should cease to have the hold over us that it does.
Conscience it is the part of our mind that makes us lose our minds; the moralist that prevents us from evolving a personal, more complex and subtle morality; that prevents us from finding, by experiment, what may be the limits of our being.
How has it come about that we are so bewitched by our self-hatred, so impressed and credulous in the face of our self-criticism, as unimaginative as it usually is? And why is it akin to a judgement without a jury? A jury, after all, represents some kind of consensus as an alternative to autocracy We need to be able to tell the difference between useful forms of responsibility taken for acts committed, and the evasions of self-contempt This doesn’t mean that no one is ever culpable; it means that culpability will always be more complicated than it looks; guilt is always underinterpreted Self-criticism, when it isn’t useful in the way any self-correcting approach can be, is self-hypnosis.
By nurturing our capacity for multiple interpretations, Phillips suggests, self-criticism can become “Less jaded and jading, more imaginative and less spiteful.”

The orginal article.

Summary of “How to Escape the Overthinking Trap: Stop Judging Yourself”

We are the only species that can really think “Offline” – wrapped up in things that haven’t yet happened or things that are long gone but can never be changed.
Critical thinking has undoubtedly advanced our cause and become one of the essential assets of being so brilliantly human, but introspective thinking – our near constant self-evaluation, who we are, where we fit, how we compare – is becoming one of the most destructive aspects of modern life.
We are in thrall to the rigid, judgmental thoughts we think about ourselves, prisoners of the sinewy web of cogitation that tells us we are strong, clever, important, unassertive, patriotic, hopeless, old, fat, hard done by, forgotten – when actually we may be many of these things rolled into one.
Our obsessive thinking about ourselves even informs the air of political revolt that made 2016 such a big turning point.
It embeds personal misery in an era in which we are tempted, even encouraged, to compare ourselves with other people: the teenager who feels low because of what her Instagram feed makes her think; the thwarted youngster, demoralised by the success of others; the employee who feels insecure because she thinks the boss blanked her on the stairwell; the hypochondriac who thinks he is dying of everything.
Too much of our behaviour is determined not by how things are, but how we think things are.
How to cultivate that sense of detachment from a poisonous, unhelpful or just plain wrong stream of thinking? Visual clues can help: a post-it on a computer screen or a screensaver on a phone.
Instead of ruining our short time alive by setting expectations of how we think everything should be, from our jobs to our love lives, our children to our prospects, let us accept that some things will not always go as we wish.

The orginal article.

Summary of “The most important skill nobody taught you”

While the book is mostly a mathematician’s case for choosing a life of faith and belief, the more curious thing about it is its clear and lucid ruminations on what it means to be human.
Today, more than ever, Pascal’s message rings true.
Beyond the current talk about privacy and data collection, there is perhaps an even more detrimental side-effect here.
The less comfortable you are with solitude, the more likely it is that you won’t know yourself.
You’ll spend even more time avoiding it to focus elsewhere.
The more the world advances, the more stimulation it will provide as an incentive for us to get outside of our own mind to engage with it.
We are so busy being distracted that we are forgetting to tend to ourselves, which is consequently making us feel more and more alone.
That’s ironic because it’s more important than most of the ones they do.

The orginal article.

Summary of “How to Connect with Yourself in a World Designed to Distract You”

A thought is planted in us so carefully that suppressing it feels like denying our most basic instincts.
If, on occasion, we do look inward, we feel a sense of emptiness and fear.
A good sign of having lost connection with yourself is that your true instincts feel like distractions, and distractions feel like true instincts.
Is there a way to rediscover that connection with ourselves? To feel centered, and confident about who we are; to understand our emotions, feelings, and desires clearly; to know our strengths and acknowledge our limitations?
Sometimes we are at peace with the world, but also feel a longing for something better.
The reason is, our mind is telling the body what to feel, based on what the mind is thinking.
Quick exercise: Close your eyes and try to discern the shape of your hand by feeling the electrical impulses on the skin, and the gentle blood flow in the veins.
If you are able to discern only the index finger, or just the thumb, then become more sensitive to what you are feeling, until you can feel your entire hand.

The orginal article.

Summary of “How to Grow from Your Pain”

Since psychologists were only studying the most extreme mental health cases, and pretty much all of these cases involved the patient experiencing some terrible trauma at some point, early psychologists came to the logical conclusion that trauma leads to mental health issues.
It’s not the survival of trauma that makes you stronger, it’s the work you put in as a result of the trauma that makes you stronger.
Trauma creates a distinct before and after point in our lives.
You end up playing the trauma over and over again in your head, like a bad movie you’re forced to watch in a theater where you’re strapped to the chair and your eyelids are taped open.
As humans, we need to make sense of the world around us, and like I said before, trauma rarely makes sense as it’s happening to us.
Because trauma confronts us with the possibility of our own mortality, and with the possibility that most of what we thought was true about the world may not be, it has the interesting side effect of exposing what we’ve been taking for granted for most of our lives.
Researchers have found, over and over again, that a strong predictor of personal growth following trauma is a willingness to open up about the trauma in the context of a supportive social network.
Find a friend, a family member, a therapist, your pet iguana, and share your experience, your feelings, your doubts, and your fears that surround your trauma.

The orginal article.